The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

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25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Haldane.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Haldane.

Sir John Simon.

p. 155

just now, they in effect said: “How much will you give up for the sake of peace?” and the Hudson's Bay Company were in so weak a position at that moment that they were actually prepared to give up quite an important part of Hudson's Bay or James's Bay itself. If your Lordship would turn once again to that map which we called No. 26, I will indicate what it was that they were willing to give up. For the sake of peace at that time the Hudson's Bay Company were prepared to give up in James's Bay everything which would have been south of Albany River; they were prepared to say the French, and only the French, shall come up to Albany River, so long as they will withdraw north of Albany River. On the south side the Hudson's Bay Company were in so weak a position that they had to concede what we were willing to concede, that the French should come up certainly as far as Rupert's River, and at one time as far as East Maine River. That was the position then.

Viscount HALDANE: I have forgotten what it was that put an end to those negotiations. They, of course, ceased after the time of James II. There was some event which made a difference.

Sir JOHN SIMON: The main thing was this. The Commissioners, after the Treaty of Ryswick, never, in fact, got to grips. I do not think they ever sat. The Hudson's Bay Company were communicating to the British Government what they would concede; years were consumed in discussion, because, after all, this was only a small portion of the world at that time, and not a very important portion of the world, and before the thing was ever settled the Marlborough wars began again.

Viscount HALDANE: I think it was the Marlborough wars.

Sir JOHN SIMON: And ultimately England got very much better terms. If your Lordship would take one reference in this connection, still keeping this map open—

Viscount HALDANE: It was always giving up things in the Mediterranean to keep things in North America.

Sir JOHN SIMON: There was a severe attack made on the Government of the day because it was said that they had made a shameful peace. You will see it is reflected in a most material way, if you will turn now to Volume VIII, the central page being 4044. There are one or two earlier pages which lead up to it, but 4044 is the material page, and you will no doubt think it convenient to look at it first. It is, I think, a very curious document indeed.

Viscount HALDANE: What is the document as a whole?

Sir JOHN SIMON: The section is: “A series of miscellaneous documents extracted from the Hudson's Bay Company.” This gives you a glimpse of the other point. As I have said, the Treaty of Ryswick

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was a very unsatisfactory Treaty from the British point of view. As you will see, the Hudson's Bay Company had been asked more than once what they would be content with, and there was a good deal of controversy going on between the British Government and the Hudson's Bay Company. Here is a statement of the limits claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company, 22nd January, 1700, after the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697: “The limits which the Hudson's Bay Company Conceived to be Necessary as Boundaries between the French and them In Hudson Bay (in case of an Exchange of Places)”; that is, if the French are going to give up some posts which they have made far more in the north, a sort of compromise. “And that the Company cannot obtain the whole Streights and Bay which of Right belongs to Them.” These are what they would be content with: “That the French be Limited not to Trade by wood Runners or otherwise, nor Build any House Factory or Fort, beyond the Bounds of 53 Degrees or Albany River, Vulgarly called Checkewan, to the Northward on the West Maine or Coast.” I am not quite sure that the use of “coast” there is not of some significance. West Maine is the name which is constantly employed in that portion of the Hudson's Bay territory which lies on the west of Hudson's Bay. I rather think it means the west mainland. “West Maine or Coast” shows very plainly what they meant, that the coast was a great area. “2. That the French be likewise Limitted not to Trade by wood Runners or otherwise nor Build any House Factory or Fort, beyond Ruperts River to the Northward on the East Maine or Coast. 3. On the Contrary the English shall be obleiged not to Trade by wood Runners or otherwise, nor Build any House Factory or Fort, beyond the aforesaid Lattitude of 53 Degrees or Albany River vulgarly called Checkewan South East towards Canada, or any Land which belongs to the Hudson's Bay Company. As also the English be likewise obliged not to Trade by wood Runners or otherwise, nor Build any House Factory or Fort beyond Ruperts River to the South East towards Canada, on any Land which belongs to the Hudson's Bay Company”; and that neither of them is to make war on the other. Then: “Which the French may Verry Reasonably Comply with for that they by such Limitations will have all the Countrey South Eastward betwixt Albany Fort and Canada to Themselves which is not onely the Best and most Fertile part, but also a much Larger Tract of Land then can be supposed to be to the Northward, and the Company Deprived of that which was Alwayes their indoubted Right.”

Viscount HALDANE: This was only three years after the Treaty.

Sir JOHN SIMON: They were still negotiating. They went on negotiating and nothing happened. The point is that the British Government are saying to the Hudson's Bay Company: “The French have invaded right up to the north.” There is a reference here to York Fort. Would your Lordships like to identify where York Fort was? It was a very long way north indeed. York Fort on that map with the green area is on the west just below the letter “h” in “North” in the

p. 157

big inscription North America. What had happened was that the French traders had pushed right up; they had established themselves right up in the very heart of the Hudson's Bay country. Now comes the Treaty. The Treaty is: “You must give us what you took during the war”; and there is this attempt to create a compromise. Here is the Hudson's Bay Company rather wringing their hands and saying: “We will indicate what is absolutely necessary for us if these French people will withdraw at any rate to the 53rd parallel, or thereabouts, to the Albany River or Ruperts River, and let us have a bargain that they will not come further north than that.” That is a short way of seeing the situation. After the Treaty of Ryswick, if you look back a page or two you will see that there had been quite a lot of discussion about it.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: This was for the use of the Commissioners under the Treaty of Ryswick?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord. Will you look now at page 4033? The Hudson's Bay Company had been complaining most vehemently to the Government. “The state of the case of the Hudson's Bay Company with a narrative of their great sufferings by the French from their invasions ever since the year 1682.” They here set out a most elaborate account of how the French had invaded places.
On page 4034, line 7, they are expressing their satisfaction—I think it was a rather modified satisfaction—that the Treaty of Ryswick would enable the Commissioners to settle the boundary. “And this invasion was then disowned by his most Christian Majestie and satisfaction directed, (and the manner of it) by Monseiur Calliere one of the Plenipotentiaryes at the Treaty of Riswicke.” On page 4034 they go on saying, for instance at line 35: “That after all that could be said on either side had been heard and examined, the said English Commissioners made their report to his Majesty That it was their opinion that it plainly appeared his Majestie and his subjects had a right to the whole Bay and Streights of Hudson And to the sole trade thereof and that it might be fitt for His Majestie to support the Company of Hudson Bay.” Then, at page 4035, line 11, after expressing loyal congratulations to King William III that he should have succeeded to the Throne, “Upon his present Majestie happy accession to the Throne,” the Hudson's Bay Company revived their complaints by a memorial. Then they complain of what has been done at Fort Yorke and Port Nelson and various places, and I rather think the thing ends with a demand for compensation for moral and intellectual damage; certainly it is quantified later on.
Then again, at page 4037, the Hudson's Bay Company leave with Mr. Secretary Vernon their statement of their rights under the Charter. It is a very elaborate document, which I am sure your Lordships need not trouble to plough through in detail.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: There is nothing in all this so far bearing upon the extent of their rights inland.

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Sir JOHN SIMON: Not at all, my Lord; the contrast will be between what is said here and what is said when we come to a more happy period in 1713.
In the same way, at page 4042 they are addressing the Lords Commissioners appointed by His Majesty to treat with the French Commissioners, and they are saying at line 18: “The whole Bay and Streights of Hudson doth of antient right wholly belong to the Crowne of England, and consequently ought to be in the Companies possession as rightfull proprietore of the same.” Then comes the document which your Lordships have in mind.
Now if you just carry your eye on over the next few pages you will see what happened is at page 4046: “Gentlemen, Upon consideration of what was this day offered to the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, by yourselves and other members of the Hudson's Bay Company, their Lordships have commanded me to acquaint you with their desire, that the Resolution of your Court may be taken and communicated to them, whether (in case the French cannot be prevailed with to consent to the settlement of the boundaries proposed in your general Court of the 10th July last), the said Court will not think fit to consent, that the limits on the east side of the Bay be extended to the latitude of 52½ degrees, with whatever further that Court may think advisable to propose, in reference to their own affairs, for the more easy settlement of all disputes between the Company and the French in Hudson's Bay.” That is to say, if the French will give you what you say is your irreducible minimum, would you not on consideration give them a little bit more.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: On the East Coast.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, it is a difference between the East Main River and Rupert's River or Hudson's River, as it is sometimes called. Then on page 4047, the Hudson's Bay Company to the Lords of Trade, there is a reply to that and they revise their terms in this way: “1st. That the French be limitted not to trade by wood runners or otherwaise, nor build any house factory or fort to the northward of Albany River vulgarly called Chechechewan on the West Maine or Coast.” There you have it again: apparently when you say “West Maine” or “East Maine,” “Coast” is a synonym. Then comes the second point. In line 22 the words “West Main” should be “East Main.” “That the French be likewise limitted not to trade by wood runners or otherwaise, nor build any house factory or fort to the northward of Hudson River vulgarly called Canuse on the East Maine or Coast.” I have identified it; it means that the French get a little bit more, the boundary is pushed a little lower down. Then the 3rd and 4th are corresponding clauses, and this time “East Coast” is right, and in other respects I think the matter is the same.
Now, my Lords, that is the first period. As one of your Lordships said, nothing happened. It is wonderful how long these negotiations can go on. Then war broke out again, and now you will see on

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page 4049 we have reached the year 1709. Now see how important the distinction is. 1706, if I am not mistaken, was the year of Ramillies, 1708 was the victory of Oudenarde, and 1709, though, I think, a little later in September, was the year of the victory of Malplaquet. Therefore by 1709 the Hudson's Bay Company were no longer going to concede things to the French, and now the question was if and when Queen Anne chose to grant peace to the French. For you find that sort of thing was usual. The war was still going on, but they think now is the time to make little preliminary overtures, so they begin addressing the Lords of Trade and saying that when Queen Anne in her clemency sees fit to concede peace to her enemies the French—a thing which did not happen for another four years—they want to have a discussion about what was the boundary of Hudson's Bay.

Viscount HALDANE: There was negotiation with the King himself and Lord Somers with the authority of the Great Seal. That was over these matters.

Sir JOHN SIMON: It was, my Lord; it was before the formal peace.

Viscount HALDANE: Before the Peace of Utrecht.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, that is right.

Viscount HALDANE: It must have been about the date of these documents.

Sir JOHN SIMON: It would be, my Lord, but do look at the difference in tone. It is the spirit of the thing which is so interesting, and it shows why now the Hudson's Bay Company is making such a very different claim. On page 4049, a letter of the 2nd April, 1709, addressed to Adam Cardonnell, as Secretary to the Duke of Marlborough, Her Britannic Majesty's Plenipotentiary at The Hague. The Peace does not really come for another four years. “Herewith you will receive a Booke of the Transactions between England and France anno 1687 Relating to Hudson's Bay”—that is complaining of very old injuries—“as also a map of the said coasts, which contain not only the whole Bay and Streights of Hudson, which the Company by their charter are Rightfully Entitled to, But likewise and of New France, Quebeck &c. belonging to the French, who have not only for many years been unjustly possessed of Yorke Fort alias Fort Nelson in the said Bay of Hudson but by that meanes may extend their settlements even to halfe that vast Tract of Land belonging to the Company, In their Humble Petition to the Queen they Prey that when ever Her Majestie in her great wisdom shall think fitt to enter into a Treaty of Peace with the French King, that the said Prince be obliged by such Treaty to Renounce all Right or Pretentions to the Bay & Streights of Hudson, to Quitt &


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